Why is MS Dhoni irreplaceable?
As a wise man once said, "Sitting in front of a television and ranting on how a cricketer should play is much easier as compared to being present on the field and facing the music for real."
Be it for his the then long fashionable hairstyle, the barbarous cricketing shots that left the bowlers with nightmares, or even his enterprising/questionable strategies on the field, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has always been the talk of the town for a bunch of reasons ever since he made his debut back in 2004.
With India losing out to England in the ODI series, numerous social media portals and cricketing panels across the country have set the cliched question ablaze yet again - "Is it time for MS Dhoni to hang up his boots?"
On the one hand, many fans and critics have come down hard on the former Indian skipper for his "sluggish" style of play, and on the other hand, the rest have come out in his defence crying foul for blaming Dhoni alone for the defeats.
While it is understandable that MSD's recent inability to keep the scoreboard ticking in crunch situations is hard to digest, a further look at several other aspects might give us a few reasons why he continues to remain one of the best players out there in the business.
The initial stages of Dhoni's career saw him much in the role of a pinch hitter, who would walk into the middle and absolutely demolish the oppositions. As the days passed along and responsibilities began to take over, the cricketing world witnessed the transformation of a dynamic young cricketer into an ingenious new-age leader.
The Padmabhushan awardee also matured into a more composed batsman who broke several world records for a wicketkeeper-batsman. What might probably stand out as a shining aspect of his batsmanship, is his incredible ability to finish the games on a winning note. As a matter of fact, many cricketers, including the likes of Jos Buttler and Dinesh Karthik have admitted taking cues from Dhoni's batting methods to win games from hopeless situations.
With an unparalleled experience gained through the serpentine twists and turns of an eventful career, MS Dhoni possesses the most invaluable virtue in the current Indian team- a virtue that is hard to find and something, that at times, proves to be the deciding factor in a tight game situation. In fact, India's young spinners, Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, have gone on record and said that Dhoni, thanks to his experience, gets a grip of the pitch's behaviour quite early from behind the stumps and his advice on what to bowl, generally proves to be a crucial factor.
With age not on his side, MS Dhoni's spot in the current team surely keeps raising many questions. However, given the man's reflexes and running speed at the age of 37, it would be nothing less than mere foolishness to question his place on the basis of fitness.
Turning ones into twos and twos into threes, Dhoni can still be seen barging down the pitch with the passion of a 20-year-old. And when it comes to his wicket-keeping prowess, no one even comes as a close second to MSD, especially, to his lightning-fast stumpings.
Unfortunately, it is his most famed attribute - ability to finish games - that has come under the scanner in the recent past. While his blistering run in IPL 2018 gave plenty to cheer about and raised hopes of seeing the vintage Dhoni back in action, the ODI series in England has left many fans disappointed. Lower strike rates and the apparent "lack of intent" have marred his last few innings, leaving him prey to the cynics.
However, what many people don't understand is that playing for a club and playing for a nation are two different ball games altogether. Whilst in CSK, Dhoni batted higher up the order in the comparatively lighter environment of IPL. Whereas, while batting for India in England, he, typically, batted at the 5 and 6 slots with the onus of having to take the team to safe waters in the last two ODIs.
While this expectation can be totally justified, given the man's calibre, several experts have voiced their opinion that it would be better if Dhoni batted at No 4 for India. Batting higher up the order would not only give him sufficient time to settle in but also set him in to bring out those lusty blows towards the end. And if he does find his feet, which is the case more often than not, MS Dhoni would once again redeem his stocks as one of India's strongest assets in the shorter formats of the game.
Over the past 14 years, the man from Jharkhand has certainly come a long way. From being a nobody in a team packed with stalwarts to having a Bollywood film made on his life, the 37-year-old has seen it all. Now, at the twilight of his career, this proud cricketing son of India once again finds himself to prove a point or two to his critics, or maybe not as Ravi Shastri once said, "First find someone who is good enough to tie his shoelaces."
PS- The wise man who said the quote at the beginning of the article, might just be your conscience.